Support Dogs Graduation and Awards Ceremony – 18/11/18

By Victoria Thackstone, Litigation Executive, Brain & Serious Injury

Victoria Thackstone and Gary Pearson were delighted to attend the Support Dogs Graduation and Awards Ceremony on Sunday 18th November 2018 at the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn, Sheffield, and Switalskis were proud to be joint sponsor of the event.

The event

The event was to recognise the people who have made a material difference to this charity, as well as the dogs who, together with their humans, had graduated to trained support dog status. As an added bonus there was also a “puppy parade” to introduce some of the new recruits.

The main thing that struck me at the ceremony was how good and quiet the dogs were (as an owner of two energetic Springer Spaniels I didn’t think it was possible). There were in excess of 200 people at the ceremony, lots of different smells (such as the delicious lunch), lots of happy noise, not to mention the number of dogs there, and they were simply not phased. Even the young puppies who are still in training were exceptionally well behaved. Further there was not one “accident” within the carpeted room.

Autism assistance dogs

We had the pleasure of watching an emotional video to see first-hand how the autism assistance dogs helped their humans flourish and help the families live a “normal life”. Two separate families who have an autism assistance dog in their life attended and the love these ginormous dogs (they have to be in excess of 28kg to be strong enough to stop their human from, for example, running into traffic) showed to their young human was wonderful to see.

Disability assistance dogs

We had the opportunity to speak to three owners who have a disability assistance dog, each with their own individual story.


Raven was purchased as a family pet. When her owner became unwell with joint condition their GP suggested Raven be trained as a disability assistance dog. This has given her owner a new lease of life. Raven has been trained to alert her owner’s wife or the neighbours if her human has a fall and cannot get up. Raven will also go and fetch her human’s mobile telephone to enable him to call for help.


Nelson is a disability assistance dog who felt his job at the awards was to hoover up any food that might have been dropped during lunch. Nelson is able to help his human to strip the bed and do the washing.


Baby, a (tiny) 10 year old King Charles Spaniel, is a trained disability support dog. She helps her human take off long sleeved tops, as well as fetching and carrying for her. Baby has also been trained to sit across her human’s lap to minimise her pain. She slept for most the awards with her body on her human and her head on the table!

Baby is due to retire in a few weeks and, as she will continue to live with her human as a loved pet, she had had a say in the choosing of her human’s new disability support dog – a large Labrador.

The assistance dogs help to transform otherwise restricted lives for not only their allocated human, but often their human’s family as well. They give their owners the confidence and independence they need to help them live a full life, and it was wonderful to see this in practice.


Sally – Trainee assistance dog

Nelson – Disability assistance dog

Derek – Trainee assistance dog

Our Switalskis Solicitors stand!